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Why should a magnesium ribbon be cleaned before burning in air?

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Magnesium is very reactive metal like (Na, Ca, etc.). When it expose to air it reacts with oxygen to form a layer magnesium oxide (MgO) on its surface. 

Mg + O2 → 2Mgo

This layer of magnesium oxide is quite stable and prevents further reaction of magnesium with oxygen. The magnesium ribbon is cleaned by sand paper to remove this layer so that the underlying metal can be used for the reaction.

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A magnesium ribbon should be cleaned before burning in air because magnesium reacts with oxygen slowly to form magnesium oxide which prevents the burning of magnesium. The layer of magnesium oxide should be removed by sand paper.
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Magnesium ribbon should be cleaned before burning it in the air to remove the oxide layer from it which may prevent or slow down the burning of magnesium ribbon.

Magnesium is chemically very active, it takes the place of hydrogen in boiling water and a great number of metals can be produced by thermic reduction of its salts and oxidized forms with magnesium. Magnesium is labelled as the eighth most abundant element and about 2% of the earth’s crust is constituted by Magnesium.

In seawater, it is the most plentiful element present. It is not only found in seawater but also in underground brines and salty layers. After aluminium and iron, magnesium is the third most abundant structural metal in the earth’s crust.

Magnesium ribbon should be cleaned with sandpaper before burning in the air

It should be cleaned before burning due to the following reasons:

  • Magnesium very reactive element which rapidly reacts with oxygen in the air to form a white layer of magnesium oxide and this layer will not burn.
  • To remove the Magnesium oxide layer from the ribbon which may prevent or slow down the burning of magnesium ribbon.
  • Unwanted impurities deposited on the magnesium ribbon can be removed and only pure magnesium can be used for the reaction.
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